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The New Boy

The New Boy - Maddy Linehan
3.5 stars

Ah, teenage soaps and the group dynamic.

Alex and Andie are besties. When Dexter and Teegan (bro & sis) move in next door to Alex and start attending the same high school, the pot gets stirred and bonding begins. The new boy sets off new feelings in both Alex and Andie. This is told from Alex’s POV as a kind of diary… he puts everything down in writing, you see, though the story reads like a narrative, not like a diary.

Anyway, serious crushing ensues. Both Alex and Andie lust after Dexter, who is god-like in his appeal, even though Alex already has a b-friend, Gary, who is douche-like in his un-appeal, and Andie, well, she’s been keeping her options open up till now.

Except, Dex already has a girlfriend, Olive (who happens to be deaf):

“I don’t know if she’s (Andie) decided to be benevolent and accept this love rival into the group magnanimously, or if it’s some sort of sneaky girl trick to lull the deaf chick into a false sense of security.” -- Alex

Then, of course, all hell breaks loose with breakups and mixed signals…

And as Andie says, “… you’d have to be mad not to get a crush on Dexter. He’s gorgeous and he’s lovely, and he’s totally cool. He’s the trifecta.”

There you have it… the set-up.

New Boy starts off well. I like all the characters, even the girls, and they figure pretty prominently. Andie is a good friend without being annoying. New boy, Dex, has a subversive side to his glowing good looks which makes him more interesting. But mostly, I like Alex. In the beginning we get him dealing with his parents’ break up, his insecurities about Gary, his job working in a senior center, and his falling for Dex. I really like his voice. He has interesting insights; he’s a bit of a brat mixed with a bit of onset maturity:

“The fact that you associate niceness with sexuality is worrying, Andrea.”

The middle of the story gets too mushy and juvenile for my taste. It takes a turn into a ‘does he/doesn’t he’ mish-mash. It’s less about who Alex is and it loses the satisfactory rich character building that made the beginning endearing. Then, there is a big character reveal out of the blue (for us and Alex), that feels manufactured to keep this in YA-land. But, it is an interesting development none-the-less.

Things do pick up again towards the end, and aside from some structural and editorial stuff, this was a pleasant read. Those who want a sweet coming-of-age YA story will like this very much. (References to red vs blue and the gay short movie ‘Starcrossed’ were greatly appreciated :D)